Step Nine: Editing
Are we there yet? Almost! We edit when the content of our essay is not going to change; thus, editing is a low order concern (LOC). With a deep breath, we work to enhance the flow and clarity of our ideas, looking at the construction of the sentences— mechanics. Your ability to articulate your thoughts clearly in your sentences adds to your credibility, gives authority to your voice, and enhances meaning for your audience.
Keep in mind that you want to do this work and not rely on someone else to help you with it. For one, if someone changes your sentences and words, the university sees this “help” as plagiarism because your writing and ideas are underneath your well-intending friend or family member’s. Also you will not learn how to edit your sentences, which helps you understand your writing, to make them clearer. Thus, you will not be making the editing step a part of your writing process, which is necessary.
Where do you begin? Below are some techniques to guide you:
Read each paragraph out loud focusing on one paragraph at a time, so you can hear how your sentences sound. If you stumble as you are reading or get lost in your syntax, then your audience will surely follow suit. So make a note of these sentences (we all have them); then, you can return to them and work to revise the sentences to clarify the meaning.
Highlight to Rewrite
Read each paragraph out loud focusing on one at a time, highlighting each sentence in hard or on digital copy with a bright color. Focusing on one sentence at a time will keep your attention on each sentence, so you will hear how it sounds and see its relationship to neighboring sentences.
Ways to make your sentences clearer are varied. Making your sentences focused with a clear, concrete subject followed by an expressive and active verb will brighten your writing and make it easy to understand. Then, you can look at your word choice to make certain you are using words appropriately for your argument, audience, and credibility. Look back to your textual evidence to see if you can paraphrase or summarize an outside source. In academic and professional writing, continuity of your voice and tone in your writing makes your paper easy to understand. Of course, you will credit the authors since you are referring to their work and ideas. Reading an essay with many voices due to direct quotes can be challenging to follow and understand; think of different people speaking at the same time or interrupting each other, easy to get lost.
Next, when your sentences are focused, you can use sentence combining words—coordinators, subordinators, noun phrase appositives, adjective clauses, verbal phrases, absolutes, and the like—to show the relationships between your ideas in your sentences. You can check your sentence length and determine if your sentences are too long or short and you can vary your sentence lengths, which gives your writing a cohesiveness and flow.
How long will this take? At least a Netflix show, maybe longer depending on the length of your paper. You do not need to edit your paper all at once — take breaks, but please do not skip editing, since this work will improve the quality of your writing and the more you do it, the easier it will become. As Buddha says, “Practice makes the master.”
Step Ten: Proofreading
Oh! You made it to the second to the last step. Now, think of yourself as Sherlock Holmes with magnifying glass in hand because once you have your sentences in place, now it is time to look at the bits and bobs that hold them together or cause them to slowly fall apart. These are the grammar and punctuation. Following the rules for Punctuation and grammar are relatively easy if you know them; however, if you do not, use a helpful guide, work with your professor or a tutor at TASC or your campus tutoring center, or all three if need be.
However, grammar can be more challenging to revise since grammar refers to the rules that govern the language. Privilege and consider your voice and word choice, and be mindful of how and why you are using language and syntax to make meaning in your sentences.
How long does this take? At least 30 minutes depending on the length of your paper. (Probably the time it takes to find an episode and watch it on Netflix.)
Here are some ways to proofread your paper:
Read Out Loud: Sit in a quiet place and read your paper out loud, slowly and mindfully, as you were giving a speech. You might see some pesky errors hiding about. You also might want to record yourself reading your paper or have someone read it to you . . . the options are almost endless.
Read “Backwards:” Start at the end or your paper, the very last sentence. Sounds, backwards, does it not? Read the final sentence of the paper first, making note of anything you wish to change. Then, read the sentence above the final sentence in the paper, and continue to move up sentence by sentence until you read the first sentence of your paper; this will enable you to see your sentences in isolation from one another and recognize what, if anything, to change.
Spellcheck, but not Grammarcheck: Grammar is too complicated for a computer, sorry Mr. Gates and Mr. Jobs; please use your beautiful brain for that. But spell check is useful, so turn it on and pay attention to those squiggly lines. Also be your own spell check because it will not catch errors like: their/there/they’re; it’s/its; from/form; where/were.
Dew knot trusse yore sell cheque two fined awl you’re mistakes.
Get to Know Your Writing: As you work more and more with your writing, you will get to know your writing better. Give attention to the errors you usually make, so you can look for those patterns when you proofread your paper.
Proofreading Activity —
Step Eleven: Format and Publication—Farewell . . . for now.
Depending upon how much time you have to devote to the writing process, you may feel like you need more time with your work. Or perhaps you are sick of working on the paper and are ready to say “goodbye.” Well, good news, all good things must come to an end and now is the time to say Adieu. Before your submit your work, make certain you present it to your audience professionally. In this class, we will follow MLA (Modern Language Association of America) format which is the principle professional association for scholars of language and literature.
Please use these sources to format your paper in MLA format:
MLA Tutorial #1: Basic Paper Formatting (4.59 minutes) to format your essay
MLA Style Citation (2.32 minutes) as a guide to citing
MLA Tutorial #3: Works Cited page Format (5.30 minutes) to create your Works Cited page
Your paper is now ready for the party, so submit it and celebrate with a jump in the air and click of your heels!